10 reasons why the Beatles were the greatest band ever
published: August 20, 2012
1) They released 13 quality albums in just 8 years
That’s extraordinarily prolific. No, it’s out-of-this-world prolific. Yes, that was a different day and a different time but for comparison purposes today’s standard is one new album every three years. Look at acts like U2, Radiohead, Madonna, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, etc. The thought of those acts releasing two albums of new material per year is nearly ludicrous to ponder. In the span of 8 years currently, most top acts release about three full albums. The Beatles released 13.
2) They released 7 of the greatest albums in the top 20 of all time
Take your pick but a solid argument could be made to place Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Let it Be, Abbey Road and Magical Mystery Tour in the top 20 of all time. Yes, Let it Be and Magical Mystery Tour would be on the periphery but they belong.
3) Three rock and roll Hall of Fame songwriters
Most bands would die to have just one. The Beatles had three, including the top two of all time (Lennon, McCartney). Yes, George Harrison didn’t evolve and shine brightly until Team Beatles was on life support in 1968ish, but his contributions are some of the pillars of their post-Sgt. Pepper work (‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Something’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’).
4) They got tired of singing over the top of screaming teenaged fans – so they quit touring
The Beatles, quite amazingly did not tour to support the 2nd half of their career. That’s the half of their career that included every great album listed above. They bucked all standard practices and chose to grow up in the studio versus standing in front of 16 year old fans at oversold baseball stadiums with shitty acoustics.
Look who the Beatles toppled: The Rolling Stones, Dylan, Elvis, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Hendrix. Whether you believe that Radiohead, Arcade Fire or U2 are the greatest band alive right now, who is their competition? Coldplay?? The Black Keys?? Please.
6) They created pop music
They didn’t embellish it or make it better – they created it. It started heavy with Rubber Soul and Revolver and songs like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ were the fruition and evolution of a new style of music. They were the trigger of a revolution that became pop culture.
7) They created the album concept
Thank you, Sgt. Pepper. No longer a simple collection of random songs, in 1966/67 the Beatles decided to turn albums into themes and stories. Sgt. Pepper was the first gatefold cover LP and the first time an album utilized all of the non-hits as part of the story. Everyone else had filler – the Beatles had albums. I’ll plagiarize an analogy from a Kid A review I recently read. The Beatles in 1967 were holding an aquarium and everyone else was holding up blue construction paper.
8) They disbanded in their prime
John Lennon was only 30 when the Beatles broke up. McCartney was 28. George Harrison was 27. Ringo Starr was 30. They still had youth and they still had many years remaining in their prime but they stopped while they were on top, ending a string of success that is unparalleled. Imagine Muhammed Ali retiring in 1974 instead of 1981 and what you have is the Beatles. Imagine Elvis retiring in 1968 before becoming a shell of himself by his death, and what you have is the Beatles. Imagine the Rolling Stones retiring in 1973, or U2 in 1993. Where some bands play on (and on, and on, and on – i.e., The Rolling Stones, The Who), The Bealtes stopped and became iconic. No band ever called it quits at a greater time – with the bar set so high that Jesus himself would need a stepladder and a go-go gadget left arm to reach it. Impeccable timing, even if it wasn’t planned to be that way at the time. I mean seriously, would any of us have really wanted to see a new Beatles album in 1977 at #2 on the charts one notch behind Saturday Night Fever? No thanks. Our universe would have ended on that day.
9) They didn’t get back together years later (after the magic was gone) for a reunion album or a reunion tour or a reunion gig, or a Super Bowl halftime appearance
Amen! The remaining Beatles eschewed millions (and we’re not being facetious when we say multi-multi-millions) of dollars of cash to avoid the chance at a failed return to greatness. They chose their hatred for each other during the 70’s over the millions of dollars on the table and we thank them for it. That doesn’t imply I would not adore Beatles album #14 if it existed but I’m happy with my collection of 13, thank you very much.
10) They had one member willing to look at the government and say fuck you
No hero in rock or pop culture has ever replaced John Lennon. Bono has been close and that’s a credit to his philanthropic energy, but he’s different than Lennon. Whether Lennon’s ideas sucked or were completely polarizing at least he had the stones to share them. He flipped off the concept of being a boy band by the end of 1964 and he grew up faster than any other Beatle. He pushed the press and the government in directions like never before. McCartney gave us melody but Lennon gave us balls.
One fantastic moment of Lennon (from June 1, 1969) taken from the 1988 documentary ‘Imagine’ showed the in-bed interview with the humorist, antagonist and cartoonist Al Capp accusing Lennon of doing the infamous in-bed protest as a publicity stunt to make money.
Lennon immediately and eloquently went back at Capp eye to eye, “You think I couldn’t earn money by some other way…by sitting in bed for seven days, taking shit from people like you? I could write a song in an hour and earn more money.”
It was Lennon’s most eloquent way of telling Capp and the world that I could take your money if I wanted to but I’d rather spend my time telling my government how I feel. It just didn’t get any better than that clip to learn everything you needed to know about Lennon and the Beatles. They left millions on the table and for all the right reasons.
Referenced articles: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6656-kid-a/